August 20, 2004 by

Ivan Hlinka

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Categories: Sports

Ivan Hlinka, an exceptional hockey player who later coached the Czech Republic hockey team to a gold medal at the Olympics, died in a car accident on Aug. 16. He was 54.
Born in Most, Czechoslovakia, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound center scored 132 goals in his 256 appearances on the Czech national team that won the world championship in 1972, 1976 and 1977. At the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, his team won the bronze medal, and took the silver four years later in Innsbruck, Austria. From 1981 to 1983, Hlinka played with the Vancouver Canucks. He then returned to Europe, finished his playing career in Switzerland and became a hockey coach.
Under his leadership, the Czech national team won the gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics with a 1-0 victory over Russia. Hlinka was named associate head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins under Herb Brooks in Feb. 2000, and promoted to head coach in June. He took the Penguins to the Eastern Conference finals of the N.H.L. playoffs, but was fired the following year when the team started the 2001 season with a 0-4 record.
In 2002, Hlinka was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. Last spring, he was named the best Czech hockey player of all time.
Hlinka died of injuries he sustained on Sunday night when a truck collided head-on with his car approximately 70 miles west of Prague. Reappointed Czech coach in May, he was planning to coach his country’s hockey team at the World Cup later this month.
Brooks, the architect behind the American hockey team that captured the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., died last August, also in an automobile accident.
Listen to a Tribute From Radio Prague

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